In its heyday, the Zaan region developed into an industrial area on a scale never seen before, with 600 active windmills: wooden factories powered by wind. The production capacity increased enormously. The local population came up with all kinds of ingenious ways of developing different types of industrial windmills, capable of producing virtually anything. Wood sawn by machine, paper, ground spices, oil for food and paint, colourings, all kinds of fabrics, flour, cocoa powder, etc. Of course, these developments brought great prosperity to the region, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The local population were not only traditionally known for their entrepreneurial spirit, but also their sense of community. For example, they shared technical innovations and entered into so-called fire contracts, as insurance against windmill fires.
Taken from http://www.dezaanseschans.nl/